ONE + ONE = THREE: A Masterclass in Creative Thinking By David Trott

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Short stories about how people thought differently to bring great results. The purpose is to expose readers to varied stuff. The more variations we experience, the more unusual connections we make in our minds. Ultimately creativity is how many connections we are able to make!

Here are my notes:

“Any new idea is nothing more than a new combination of old elements. The ability to make those new connections depends on our ability to see relationships” — Steve Jobs

What makes some people more creative?

They are better at spotting those connections, better at recognizing possible relationships. They are better at connecting the dots because they have more dots to connect. Dots here mean they have exposed themselves to a variety of experiences. They have had curiosity for every subject that drives them to learn about it even if it is some subject they didn’t particularly like.

Ancient history, mathematics, modern manufacturing techniques, etc etc. They however don’t know when these ideas might come together to form a new idea. It could happen in minutes or happen in years!

Inversely, what makes some people less creative?
Most people haven’t had diverse experiences. They may know a lot, but only but about a very narrow field. So they dont have enough dots to connect. So they end up with predictable, linear solutions.

To greatly increase the amount of brain usage…

Be unconventional in your approach. The secret again is to make connections.

Conventionally, people just learn more stuff. They learn more stuff about whatever they’re interested in. This kind of learning made for small, slow growth in brain usage. Because we are simply adding to the store of what we already know.
But if new ideas are new combinations of existing ideas, the more connections we can create, the more ideas we can generate.

That’s why for real growth, we need to identify the areas we’re not naturally interested in. Then we need to investigate those areas. This massively multiplies the amount of new connections we can make with our existing store of knowledge. Because its no longer predictable, now its original and surprising. Because each connection will be a new connection with everything else we know. So our creativity is directly related to how many connections we are able to make. Which is directly related to how much new and unusual stuff we expose our minds to.

Think upstream of the problem
What do we mean by ‘thinking upstream’? — For example, one of the reason (perhaps) for Uber’s success is that it eliminates Uncertainty for riders through its map feature. Users could look at the map and easily find out where the car is at any given moment and when it will arrive to pick them up. Now imagine if there were no maps and GPS, but Uber existed. If you as an Entrepreneur thought upstream, that a rider, needs no uncertainty and requires a way to know exactly where the car is and when will it arrive, you may have produced a product that made maps for Uber. That’s thinking upstream of the problem.

As Product Managers, how often we run into solutions mode thinking as soon as a customer talks about some feature they want without even thinking of the real underlying problem?

Real creativity doesn’t come from struggling to answer a difficult brief. Real creativity comes from getting upstream of the brief and finding a different answer. Reinterpreting the brief is often solving the problem. Go upstream. Change the problem from one you can’t solve to one you can.

To Avoid the Herd
Ask, What aren’t others doing?

Zero to One?
We can’t discover anything new as long as we stick to formulas. We will be limited by conventional wisdom. This reminds me what Peter Thiel tells in his book, ‘Zero to One’ where he tells that the next Zuckerberg will not build a Facebook. It also is about Elon Musk, who asks to not think in terms of analogies, which restricts your thinking. Instead use First Principles Thinking, by boiling down any concept to its absolute truth and then move ahead from there. For example, a Car is nothing but a container, that a person gets into and which takes them from place A to Place B, while following traffic rules. This perspective then allows you to innovate. Does this container need engines? Can the container be powered with Batteries? Can the container have doors that open upward instead of side on?

The MoM Test?
Don’t give them what they want. Give them what they never dreamed was possible. Reminds me of the book ‘The MoM Test’ where the author makes a key point, ‘You are not allowed to tell the users what their problem is and in return, users are not allowed to tell you what the solution is’

What if the most confident person you know is wrong?
Other people’s opinions are just that. Opinions. Not Facts.
Other people may appear more eloquent, they may be able to shout louder, they may be more plausible, even get more agreement. All of them makes them appear confident. And if we are impressed by their confidence, we begin to doubt. We begin to believe that maybe they are right. Because we see they are confident and we assume they know something we don’t. And we fold even when we shouldn’t. But what if their confidence is misplaced?

What if they aren’t as good as us and they don’t know what we know? What if they’re wrong?

Confidence and Self Belief
One needs to get over the fear of being ostracized from the community. One needs to have immense self belief to be creative.
Have confidence to be different, to stand out. If not, you will be part of the herd, looking for solutions in the same place as everyone else.

Other Notes — Unsorted.

Nothing can harm a man so much as his own thoughts untamed.

The limitations of human beings mean that no one can ever know the whole truth about anything. Just the truth from their perspective.

When a true genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederacy against him.

You can have what you want or you can have your reasons for not having it!
Disaster is a gift. The opportunity is always to be creative. What do you do when events don’t go to plan and you can’t change events? You change the plan!

Form follows function. Its not just making something attractive. Its solving a problem in an unexpected and innovative way.

Focus on One Thing. Reduce your focus at to one thing. That doesn’t mean you can’t do other things. But it does mean you prioritize one thing.

Writing is Architecture, not Interior Decoration! — How brilliant is that! It implies state the bare minimum and let the readers imagination add the part unsaid, the part below the surface — Iceberg theory.

Know about loss aversion. Fear of losing is more powerful than the prospect of gains.

Take a problem and turn it into an opportunity.

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